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Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 14 ~ Apr. 6-12
Judges 19 – 1 Samuel 17
The King and I(srael)
Up until now, Israel has been under the leadership of Moses, Joshua, and a string of judges, including current prophet/judge, Samuel. But some of the elders have decided it’s time for a king. Why? Let’s take a look.
1 Samuel 8; 10:17-24
Why did Israel demand a king?
The cycle of the judges:
Israel was in a cycle in which: they would have a judge for several years and everything would go smoothly for them. God would give them victory in battle (or peace), their harvests would be bountiful, etc. Then, the judge would die, Israel would get into idolatry again, things would go badly for several years, they would cry out to the Lord, the Lord would raise up another judge, and the cycle would start all over again.
Israel likely thought it was the lack of succession from one judge to another that was the cause of all the turmoil, and that if they had a kingship (with built in succession) the chaotic years would cease, and things would go smoothly from there on out. What they failed to realize was that it was their obedience to God that brought peace during the lives of the judges, not a seamless changing of the guard.
The appearance of strength:
Another reason Israel may have wanted a king was that it gave the appearance of strength to other nations. Without a king, neighboring nations probably viewed Israel as weak and vulnerable, leading to more attacks. Of course, this would lead Israel to depend more on the Lord, and that’s exactly what He wanted.
“Everybody else is doing it”:
Finally (8:5), they wanted a king “like all the nations.” Whether this was because they admired the other nations’ structure of government, economy, large armies, etc., or, because Israel wanted to look more prestigious (or stronger- see above) in the eyes of other nations, they were blind to the fact that they would have had things so much better under God’s Kingship.
Why didn’t God want Israel to have a king?
God was already their king.
Israel didn’t need a human king. God was far more capable than any human king of winning battles, providing for them, ensuring a good economy, establishing and enforcing law and order, etc.
God wanted Israel to look to Him for everything.
We tend to look to the President and Congress for governance, the grocery store for food, our jobs for paychecks, our doctors for healthcare. God wanted Israel to look to Him for every aspect of their lives: government, provision, health, food, everything. Because He is sovereign over all that happens on earth and in heaven, He wants us to recognize that we should be looking to Him for these things as well. He wants us to realize that we are completely dependent on Him.
Israel’s desire for a king was another rejection of God, which brought Israel ever closer to severe judgment. (Isaiah 28:21, Ezekiel 18:23,32, 2 Peter 3:9)
Even though Israel deserved judgment for her many rebellions against God, judgment is a last, undesirable resort for Him. Isaiah tells us that judgment is God’s “strange work”. Ezekiel reminds us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Peter writes that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Small rebellions can lead to bigger rebellions. A loving parent knows this and tries to keep this from happening by disciplining his child. With a small rebellion, we might start out with a small discipline, such as taking away dessert. As the rebellions get bigger or more frequent, bigger discipline, such as spanking or grounding might be appropriate.
Most children learn to control their behavior through these moderate forms of discipline, but a few may eventually become so destructive, addicted, or abusive that parents have to go to the extreme end of “tough love” by throwing them out of the house or turning them over to the authorities. It’s all done in love and all in an effort to bring the child home. This is exactly what was happening with the Israelites.
This is why God did everything necessary to keep Israel from His severe judgment. He carefully and specifically laid out the Law, promised them blessings for obedience and described the consequences for disobedience in gory detail, made examples out of people who disobeyed, offered forgiveness for repentance, gave them (initially) good and godly leaders (Moses, Joshua, the judges), and performed miracles to help them believe in Him. All this in an effort to stop their slide into total rejection of Him and the consequence of final judgment.
One last chance (8:10-18)
Israel could never say she hadn’t been warned. In these verses God told them directly and specifically exactly what their new king would be like, how he would treat them, and the consequences that would follow: confiscation of private property, slavery, God turning a deaf ear to their pleas for help. But still they demanded a king. This king God had just described. They were at the point of no return, and they plunged ahead despite the warning. Why?
Hearts of Stone (Ezekiel 11:19, Romans 1:22-25)
Just as a small rebellion can lead to bigger and bigger rebellions, a small hardening of the heart can eventually lead to a complete hardening of the heart.
In the movie Frozen, Elsa (the snow queen), accidentally shoots an icicle ray (or whatever you call it) at her sister’s (Anna) heart, which causes Anna’s heart to slowly begin freezing bit by bit. If Anna doesn’t receive “an act of true love” before her heart completely freezes, she will turn into an ice statue forever.
This is similar to what was happening with Israel. Their continual rebellion was hardening their hearts against God bit by bit, until they would eventually be completely hardened against Him. Romans tells us that when people persist in ungodliness despite the many opportunities for mercy, grace, and salvation God has offered them, He eventually “gives them over” to a hardened heart. He gives them what they want: life without Him.
What does all this have to do with me? (Isaiah 55:9)
Everything. We are just like Israel in so many ways. We’re born into this world having already been shot through the heart with Satan’s “icicle” of sin, the sin nature we inherited from Adam and Eve. We spend our lives rebelling against God, our hearts slowly hardening, bit by bit, looking for another king (usually ourselves), so we can be just like everybody else, because what the world has to offer looks desirable to us.
But God doesn’t want us to have another king, because He’s already THE King, and He’s far better and more capable than any other king we could put on the throne of our lives. He wants us to look to Him for salvation, provision, comfort, strength, everything. So, God extends grace and mercy to us in a variety of ways, some pleasant, some not, to turn us towards the cross and Christ for salvation. He does this so that we can repent and turn to Him instead of facing the final judgment of hell in eternity.
Sometimes, we also see a similarity to Israel’s demand for a king in our prayer lives. We can ask, beg, and plead with God for things He doesn’t want us to have, and even get mad at Him when He doesn’t give us what we want. We must always keep in mind that His ways are higher than our ways and that what He wants for us is always better than what we want. Let us never get to the point in our prayer lives where our will is more important to us than God’s will. Israel’s way was, “No! But there shall be a king over us!” Jesus’ way was, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Let’s take our example, not from Israel, but from the the King of Israel, King Jesus.